BUSCH: Kansas: Paul Menard preview

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Oct. 4, 2005) ^Ö Kansas Speedway will always be a special place for Paul Menard and his ...

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Oct. 4, 2005) ^Ö Kansas Speedway will always be a special place for Paul Menard and his #11 Menards/Splash Chevrolet teammates from Dale Earnhardt, Inc.  That^Òs where they laid down the fastest NASCAR Busch Series qualifying lap a year ago this weekend for their first-ever Busch Pole Award together.


While race day turned out to be a losing battle against a myriad of handling issues, it^Òs that inspiring qualifying effort from a year ago that Menard and his #11 DEI teammates look to build upon at Saturday^Òs United Way 300 in hopes of continuing their almost four-month-long streak of top finishes in 2005.


Since mid-June at Kentucky Speedway, Menard and his teammates have strung together 13 top-12 finishes in 14 events, including a runner-up at Richmond, third place at Milwaukee, and top-fives at Kentucky and Gateway.  That impressive run has vaulted Menard from 18th to a solid seventh in the latest drivers standings.


^ÓThe success we^Òve had since the Kentucky race is not at all surprising to anyone who^Òs a part of or close to the Menards team at DEI,^Ô said Menard, who added his second career Busch pole at Talladega earlier this year and has led a total of 185 laps in 2005.  ^ÓFrom (crew chief) Dan Stillman, to the travelling crew, to all the people at the shop, it^Òs something we knew we were capable of all along.  It^Òs a very talented and hard-working group, and it was only a matter of time before things fell together like they did.^Ô


Returning to the scene this weekend of their first-ever pole qualifying effort together is just the latest motivating factor for Menard and the #11 DEI team as the series turns the corner and into the home stretch of the 2005 schedule.


^ÓWe^Òre all excited about going back to Kansas.^Ô Menard said.  ^ÓWe got our first big milestone there last year by winning the pole, and this year we hope we can finish the job by bringing home our first win.  That, too, is something we know we^Òre capable of doing week in and week out.  But so do a lot of other really good drivers and teams out there.  The Busch series is so competitive right now that, aside from a little racing luck, there^Òs little or no margin for error on any given weekend if you are going to come home a winner.  I know we can do it.  When will it happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.^Ô


Practice for Saturday^Òs United Way 300 begins Friday at 9 a.m. local time (10 a.m. EDT).  Qualifying is set for Friday at 4 p.m. local time (5 p.m. EDT) with live coverage on SPEED-TV.  Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT) with live coverage on NBC-TV.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard